Book Recommendation: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

spiritual disciplinesTitle: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
Author: Donald S Whitney
Subject: Spiritual Growth

Some books and some movies are only watched once. This book has been one of the few books that I pick up every other year, and re-read it. It is so simple, easily presented, yet so powerful and necessary.

SOME THOUGHTS FROM THE BOOK:

How do we pursue Holiness and become more like Christ? Through discipline. “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” 1 Timothy 4:7. In this book, the author breaks down most of the Spiritual Disciplines all Christians, including pastors, lay leaders, and just believers in Jesus Christ, should practice. These include Bible reading, prayer, worship, evangelism, service, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and others.

God uses three ways to change us and make us more like Jesus: the first two are people (friends/enemies), & circumstances (all things God works for the good of those who love Him. Romans 8:28). When He changes us through people and circumstances, the process works from the outside in. The third way God can change us is through spiritual disciplines, which is when God works from the inside out.

Cowboys coach Tom Landry once said, “The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.” Christians are called to make themselves do something they would not naturally do – pursue Spiritual Disciplines – in order to become what they’ve always waned to be – more like Christ.

“We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he himself practiced in order to remain constantly at home in the fellowship of his Father. “ Dallas Willard

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES AUTHOR EXPOUNDS UPON:

BIBLE INTAKE

  • Worst dust storm in history would happen if all church members who were neglecting their Bibles dusted them off simultaneously.
  • Most transforming practice available to us is the disciplined intake of Scripture

5 Ways to practice “Bible Intake:
HEAR scripture. (Luke 11:28 & Romans 10:17 “faith comes from hearing the message,” 1 Timothy 4:13 “devout self to public reading of scripture.”)

READ IT. Jesus often said, “Did you not read….”

STUDY it. Reading gives breadth, study gives depth. Ezra 7:10 “devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord.” Apostle Paul in 2 Timoth 4:13 asks Timothy to bring scrolls (scriptures) that He (Apostle Paul!) can continue his studies.

MEMORIZE scriptures.

  • When scripture is stored in the mind, it is available for the Holy Spirit to take and bring to your attention when you need it most.
  • Witnessing in the New Testament (Peter’s sermon on Pentecost) was primarily quotes of scripture.
  • If you don’t have a verse memorized exactly, you lose confidence in using it in conversation and witnessing (choose important ones, KNOW THEM!

MEDITATE on word. Psalm 1:2 “but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

TIPS for Bible reading:

  • Make time for it.
  • It takes about 72 hours to read the whole Bible. The average American watches that much television in less than 2 weeks. Most CHRISTIANS don’t read through the whole bible in their life time. PRIMARILY reason why not? An issue of discipline & motivation.
  • Remember a word/phrase each time your read and meditate on it.
  • If your growth in Godliness were measured by the quality of your Bible intake, what would be the result? Truth: your growth in Godliness is greatly affected by the quality of your Bible intake. John 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth: your word is truth.”

PRAYER

  • Writing about meditation, a Puritan pastor wrote, “As it is the sister of reading, so it is the mother of prayer… Reading without meditation is unfruitful; meditation without reading is hurtful; to meditate and to read without prayer upon both, is without blessing.”
  • Martin Luther says, “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.”
  • JC Ryle “What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference, in 19 cases out of 20, arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much.”

WORSHIP (Public & private)

  • No matter how fulfilling or sufficient our regular public worship celebration seems, there are experiences with God that he gives only in our private worship.

EVANGELISM

  • Only being lost in worship is as exhilarating and intoxicating as telling someone about Jesus Christ.
  • The most rewarding times in life when evangelizing
  • Many believers pray & read bibles, but DON’T evangelize.
  • Success in Evangelism is not people repenting (otherwise Jesus failed when rich young ruler did not want to follow him). Success is proclaiming the Good news.
  • One of main reasons why we don’t do it is because we don’t discipline ourselves to do it.

SERVICE

  • Most service, even that which seems glamorous, is like an iceberg. Only the eye of God ever sees the larger, hidden part of it.
  • Two of the deadliest sins – laziness and pride – oppose serving. They paint glazes on our eyes and put chains on our hands and feet so that we don’t serve.
  • Serve the Lord w/ gladness (Psalm 100:2). In the courts of ancient kings, servants were often executed for nothing more than looking sad in the service of the king.  Are you serving w/ gladness, or is your “serving” a burden you carrying?
  • Hidden service: the flesh whines against service but screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition. It will devise subtle, religiously acceptable means to call attention to the service rendered. Regardless of what you think you see, God promises that your work is never in vain.
  • WANTED: Gifted volunteers for difficult service in the local expression of the Kingdom of God. Motivation to serve should be obedience to God, gratitude, gladness, forgiveness, humility, and love. Service will rarely be glorious. Temptation to quit place of service will sometimes be strong. Volunteers must be faithful in spite of long hours, little or not visible results, and possibly no recognition except from God in eternity.

STEWARDSHIP of Time and Money

  • The clock and the dollar are such substantial factors in so many parts of life that their role must be considered in any serious discussion of Godly living.
  • Time is short: The more scarce something is, the more valuable it is. Gold and diamonds would be worthless if you could pick them up like pebbles on the side of the road.
  • If you were to galvanize every person on earth into the purpose, the entire worlds efforts, wealth, and technology could not bring back one minute.  Steward your time wisely.
  • God owns every thing you have. The question is not how much you should give, but How much of God’s money can you keep?
  • Giving is an act of worship
  • Giving reflects faith in gods provision
  • Giving should be planned and systematic (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).

SILENCE AND SOLITUDE

  • Zephaniah 1:7 Be silent before the Sovereign Lord.
  • Habakkuk 2:20 Let all earth be silent before Him
  • There is always a place for wordless worship
  • When you practice silence and solitude, you find that you don’t need to say many things you think you need to say.
  • Jim Elliou: I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds… Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.

The author expounds on other spiritual disciplines, and writes more about each spiritual discipline mentioned above. I highly recommend this book, I personally reread it every other year.

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